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Posted on Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Civil rights group asks U.S. Department of Justice to monitor Islamic school's rezoning request

By Tom Perkins

The Pittsfield Township Planning Commission has rejected a Michigan Islamic Academy request to rezone property where it wants to build a new school on property it owns at Golfside and Ellsworth roads.

Now, a Michigan Islamic civil-rights group is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to monitor the approval process because of concerns that the school’s religious rights may be violated.


The proposed school property is marked at the far right, which is the eastern end of the parcel. It was zoned for residential use as part of the Silverleaf subdivision. The Roundtree apartments and condominiums are also adjacent to the property.

The issue will be on the planning commission’s Aug. 4 meeting agenda. Officials are scheduled to vote on whether to recommend the request to the Pittsfield Township Board of Trustees.

If recommended to trustee, the board would hold its own vote on the question.

Commissioners previously voted 3-2 to reject the request, with opposing commissioners citing traffic and noise concerns. However, officials involved with the school say two separate traffic studies have shown there would be little impact on traffic levels.

The bulk of neighbor concerns have come from resident in the Roundtree Apartments complex on Ellsworth and the Silverleaf subdivision located just to the property's west.

The property was zoned as part of Silverleaf subdivision and homeowners have said they bought their homes expecting the adjacent property to stay residential. The property was foreclosed and went back to the lender, and would have to be rezoned.

Thumbnail image for Michigan_Islamic_Academy_1.jpg

The Michigan Islamic Academy now offers classes in northeast Ann Arbor, but wants to expand to a larger building that it would build along Ellsworth Road.

Tarek Nahlawi, a board member at the academy, said he believes neighbors are opposed because it’s an Islamic school.

Lena Masri, a Council of Arabic-Islamic Relations staff attorney and attorney for the school, said CAIR has sent a letter to the department asking them to monitor the situation.

If the department finds evidence of a constitutional violation after the Board of Trustees makes its final decision, then it could launch a full investigation.

Masri explained she believes the school’s religious rights could be violated because the township cannot deny it the right to operate due to minor impact on traffic and noise. She said the traffic studies, which were suggested by commissioner Chris Walls, have demonstrated that traffic volume wouldn’t significantly increase.

“Our concern is denying a religious neighborhood school the right to operate is a serious abridgement of (the school’s) constitutional rights,” Masri said. “The township is obligated to look at the facts, and in this situation it is clear there won’t be an impact on traffic or noise and none of these reasons constitute a compelling government interest.”

In a letter to the justice department, CAIR Director Dawud Walid expressed concern that opposed residents “negatively influenced the planning commission in making a decision against the Michigan Islamic Acadmey…” and stated that “derogatory remarks were also made regarding Muslims and their religious practice” during public comment at the June 16 meeting.

He added that in other similar cases around the country, anti-Muslim activists “raise concerns such as traffic issues and neighborhood harmony with planning commissions and zoning boards to provide legal cover for denial of zoning for mosques and Islamic schools based on prejudice.”

The school is planned on a 26-acre parcel on the south side of Ellsworth, where Golfside dead-ends.

Cars would exit via a new, short street that would create a four-way intersection where Golfside dead ends into Ellsworth.

Residents say they are especially concerned because nearby Fortis Academy on Golfside already causes congestion at the start and end of the school day.

But Nahlawi again said the traffic study conducted by a firm recommended by the planning commission found there would be little impact. He added that Fortis is a much larger school with an enrollment over 750. The new Islamic Academy would see around 225 students in its first year and be built to accommodate around 350. The traffic study sought to determine the impact of a school with 350 students.

The driveway running in front of the school is designed to accommodate 70 cars and runs diagonally from Ellsworth to the new street.

Nahlawi said the school has nearly 200 students enrolled. Many families carpool and the school also has two buses and vans, Nahlawi said, so there wouldn't be a situation where the traffic is backed up out to Ellsworth.

Plans also include a community center, but Nahlawi said that project is at least seven years off. He said a separate traffic study would be conducted to determine the center’s impact before it is built.

Nahlawi expressed frustration at offering to meet with neighbors on multiple occasions and receiving little response. In early April, the school held an open house at its current Plymouth Road building, but only two people showed up. A meeting at a neighboring home brought out five residents, and no one attended a meeting he held at Starbucks.

“If somebody wants to resolve issues they’re going to talk to you, but if they don’t want to talk it indicates they just don’t want you,” Nahlawi said.

Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal called the township a “welcoming and diverse community” and underscored no township officials have made derogatory remarks. She pointed out that the township recently approved a mosque on West Michigan Avenue, and in 2010 approved the use of an entire township park for Islamic prayer service.

“We have been and will continue to follow state law and local ordinances when considering rezoning requests,” Grewal said.

Nahlawi said some of the comments at the most recent Planning Commission meeting were disheartening. He said many residents at the meeting stated that they supported the school but didn’t feel this was the right location.

“Where is the place for the school? Somewhere on a farm?” he asked.

“I think, honestly, they don’t want us there because we’re different,” he later added. “We came to this country by choice, not by force. We are Americans like everyone else. I don’t understand.”


Mohamed Baghdadi

Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 11:34 p.m.

Being at the hearing, the biggest concern was traffic followed by millions of other pointless concerns that didn't make any sense. First thing's first: traffic was conducted by professionals who concluded that rezoning the property and building a school wouldn't affect traffic greatly. ACCORDING TO THE CITIZINS-the non professionals- BUILDING A SCHOOL WOULD BY NO DOUBT INCREASE TRAFFIC. IF THE LAND ISNT GOING TO BE USED FOR A SCHOOL? THEN WHAT WILL IT BE USED FOR? A RESIDENTIAL AREA? AND EVEN THEN!!, THAT WOULD STILL CREATE MORE TRAFFIC THAN A SCHOOL. THAT LAND WILL NEVVVVEEEER BE A RESIDENTIAL AREA. OMG, "PEOPLE CANNOT TAKE 'NO' AS AN ANSWER". If you were at the hearing, you would understand that last quote.


Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 5:34 p.m.

If the traffic study has been successful, and all of planning requirements have been met, the school is within its rights to build.

Matt Cooper

Fri, Aug 5, 2011 : 4:38 a.m.

"they'll build houses - and use them in a unapproved way saying they are "home schooling" their children..." Use their houses in an unapproved way? Huh? They now have to have approval to use their own houses in any way they so choose? Wow! Do you also have to seek out someone elses approval to use your house in whatever way you so choose? As for the rest of your unbridled and rather obvious hatred of "them" and "they" is quite stunning.

Lets Get Real

Thu, Aug 4, 2011 : 8:19 p.m.

Not if the property is not rezoned. Watch out - they'll build houses - and use them in a unapproved way saying they are "home schooling" their children and they will petition to put a "community center" in the center of the "housing" development. They want what they want and the threats of the representatives clearly show that the "true Islam . . . not about conflict" goes by the wayside when they don't get their way: pull out the race card; pull out the religious persecution card. Does anyone in this group actually live in this neighborhood? Or, did they come in to buy a piece of land on forclosure, on the cheap, without contingency for rezoning? Shame on them. (Where was the advice from their hot shot lawyers then?) Now they learn: rezoning is not what the neighboring citizens and adjacent land owners want for their community - too bad for the buyer of the land. Sell the property and buy the adjacent land to the other school right down the road and do the expansion there? Noooooooo. The strategy, you ask: fight, cause ill will, disrupt, divide, accuse, distort, intimidate, pit neighbor against neighbor - and oh yes, spend all of the money you saved on that "bargain" in legal fees. Change the culture of the community from one of welcoming diversity and acceptance to one filled with anger and conflict. And then, if successful in getting things overturned, expect to be welcomed with open arms. Let's Get Real here - this is not about you or your neighborhood. It is all about THEM - what they want and the means self-important, self-centered, single focused people will go to to get it. How long till the first child from either one of these schools is hit by a car crossing the street because of the "minimal impact" on traffic? And how long till the neighbors complain of the litter the dear little students drop on front lawns? (I live near a school - ask me about candy wrappers & bottles &am


Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 3:33 a.m.

Enough is enough. The proposed school has been turned down twice now, when is the decision final. I sympathize with the people who purchased the land prior to obtaining a rezoning and now are stuck. I also understand the students wanting a new school, but the township vision for that area was residential and many of us bought our homes based on that plan. It is a growing residential neighborhood, as you can tell by the building going on just west of that area, and we would like to see it continue to be zoned residential.


Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 1:48 a.m.

Imagine what the reaction would be if one of us moved to the Muslim middle east and announced we were opening a Christian school.


Fri, Aug 5, 2011 : 12:25 a.m.

there are christian schools all over the world, including many in the "muslim middle east." xenophobia isn't a flattering look for you genetracy.


Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 2:17 a.m.

This is of course irrelevant, as our laws and rights are not (or at least should not be) based on assumptions of what discrimination we may face in other cultures, and structured to reciprocate the same wrongs. This is not the middle east, nor should we aspire to be like them. This is America, where rights for all should be held among our most cherished values. I only have to comment at all because this seems to reflect the modern spun version of the Golden Rule that many "Christians" seem all to eager to live by. Do unto others what you fear others may do unto you. Rolls off the tongue okay, but I can't help but feel it doesn't quite meet the intentions of the original version.


Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 1:23 a.m.

I would again ask all readers to take a fresh look at the photo of the building in northeast Ann Arbor. This building would be an eyesore in any residential area. We cannot destroy the residential nature of this property by simply changing the zoning rules or regulations. I would appreciate if a photo image of the proposed building is shared with the readers. The building must not negatively impact the atmosphere of the neighborhood. It should not be taller than the buildings around and should appear to be friendly, and open. It should give a feeling of inclusiveness and fit into its surroundings. Still, I would be happy to know if the Academy supports Civil Rights and Constitution.

Basic Bob

Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 12:49 a.m.

So this is the legacy of our new master plan and new township supervisor. The same week she gets her biggest victory, we are threatened with a discrimination lawsuit. I don't buy this nonsense about a diverse and welcoming community any more. Our new leadership needs to make things right.

Nancy Lechtanski

Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 12:49 a.m.

Enough is enough. MIA has been turned down twice to have the residential property rezoned for the purpose of a school. Tarik Nahlawi should have bought the property with a contingency that if rezoning was denied, he did not have to purchase the property. He did not do that. Now that it has been turned down twice, Nahlawi wants everyone to feel sorry for him. He did not have a back up plan in mind as to what he would do with the property if the rezoning was turned down. I did not buy my house on Silverleaf to have a school in my backyard. I never received any letters from the MIA to attend any meetings with them. MIA needs to look for a larger piece of property to fit their needs. Pittsfield has many non-farm land parcels for sale.

C. S. Gass

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 8:56 p.m.

First, I'd like to say that I sympathize with the residents in the area. I live directly across the street from a school, it's public, but who cares? It stops being cool once your child graduates from it. It starts being a pain with the kids, the noise and the traffic. I'm pretty tolerant, so it doesn't bother me that much but most people are not, they get angry at the drop of a hat. Religion has nothing to do with that. It's the schools, they're noisy, busy and like a prison, only a little better, no one wants one plunked down in the middle of their neighborhood. Having said that, I wish MIA luck in finding a suitable school site that won't irk people. True Islam is not about conflict. Know that there are those of us, also people of the book, who know this. Your duty is only to bring the message. The rest is up to God. I pray this will work itself out to everyone's satisfaction, insha'Allah.

David Cahill

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 7:59 p.m.

A special federal statute exists to make sure that religious bodies are treated fairly by local governments. Its name is a mouthful - something like the "Religious Institutions Land Use Protection Act (RILUPA)." That act may, or may not, be behind CAIR's request for Department of Justice monitors.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 8:53 p.m.

You are talking about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 6:19 p.m.

We have zoning so that people can build their homes knowing what will be around them. Rezoning in a residential area is rarely a good idea. I hope the DoJ refuses to get involved in a case that doesn't seem to have anything to do with religion, and everything to do with a protected group using that protected status to bully other people.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 6:06 p.m.

Yep, let's use our race or religion to intimidate people and get what we want. Islam, a religion of peace. Love the way they try to assimilate into American culture. If we tried any of this in the middle east, we'd be run out of their countries or worse. Think of that next time you try being open minded!


Sat, Aug 6, 2011 : 8:32 p.m. need to to go 5000 miles to at least non- trivialize Nicole's concerns... check out "Murder in Amsterdam" by normally ultra liberal social analyst Ian Buruma. Or pay attention to the news fro England ( nowadays known by some as 'Britainistan")

Matt Cooper

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 6:51 p.m.

Oh, so what "they" would do 5,000 miles from here should determine what we do to "them" here? Must be nice to look at the world in such simple terms.

Thomas Overmire

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 4:55 p.m.

Will this be a Charter School? If so they will operate with public school funds. A Charter School is a Public School & religion may not be taught. Who is overseeing our Charter Schools? This issue is of concern.

John Ireland

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 5:08 p.m.

This is a private school, not a charter school. They have as much right to teach religion with their secular education as much as any Christian school does.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 4:06 p.m.

Kindly take a look at the photo image of Michigan Islamic Academy building in northeast Ann Arbor. I am very familiar with all the buildings owned by Ann Arbor School District. The Islamic Academy building does not meet the basic requirements of being a School building. My expectation is, every classroom must have plenty of glass windows, and the building must have plenty of emergency fire exits. The Islamic Academy building looks like a prison or a warehouse with no emergency exits and no glass windows to provide a suitable environment to the students. I am not a lawyer. I fail to understand as to how the School is entitled to some Constitutional Rights. Kindly explain as to how Constitutional Rights are given to School Buildings. I thought that only people are entitled to Constitutional Rights. Department of Justice has no business in this decision making process and I would not expect it to pay any attention to the demand made on behalf of the School. I would rather want Department of Justice to pay attention to the activities of Michigan Islamic Academy. The Academy may impart and promote understanding of certain religious ideas that are peculiar to Islam. These peculiar religious ideas violate the Constitutional Rights of other people. I have no evidence to suggest that Islamic Academy instructs its students about Constitution and Constitutional Rights of people. The Islamic Academy must first declare its allegiance to the Constitution and must commit itself to promote Constitutional Rights even when those Rights directly violate the basic principles of its Islamic Eductaion and Instruction.

Matt Cooper

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 6:50 p.m.

Also: "The presumption of bias is an argument placed before us by Islamic Academy. This argument is not supported by any factual information." Facts: 1. The township suggested a study be made of the effects of traffic brought by the presence of the school. 2: The township even went so far as to suggest a specific company to perform the traffice assesment. 3: This company performed their assessment at the request of the school. 4: This company informed both the school and the township that in its view no traffic impediments would be caused by the presence of the school. 5: The township, in spite of the information presented by the traffic assesment, declined the rezoning request based on their own feeling (again, going against the opinions of the experts THEY suggested do the study) that traffic impediments would be caused by the presence of the school. That alone tells me there are other reasons for the denial of the rezoning request besides traffic issues.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 6:32 p.m.

Thanks for that reply. Windows and Fire Exits are visible features of any building. I am not speaking about Code Violations. I am speaking about the differences in buildings that are apparent to me. The presumption of bias is an argument placed before us by Islamic Academy. This argument is not supported by any factual information. I am just a news reader. My views were not taken into consideration to arrive at this decision. My presumption about Islam is based upon my understanding of historical events, understanding of English language version of the Muslim holybook of Koran or Quran. I would like to know and understand the need of this community for Islamic Academy to impart education to its members. They could always share their agenda with transparency. The issue of Civil Rights and Constitution have been introduced into this Story by the Academy and they may give an explanation about their understanding of Civil Rights and Constitution.

Robert Honeyman

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 5:26 p.m.

3. Any time a group or individual believes they have been injured due to bias caused by elements at best peripheral to core factors to the decision, that group has a right to bring in DOJ to investigate the existence of discrimination in the decision-making process. Although in this instance it seems likely that such discrimination was by and large absent in the process, I can certainly understand why the institution might question the lack of bias. After all, another private school was approved in the recent past in the same general area. The institution certainly has a right - and perhaps moral obligation to its members - to request independent, non-partial review. And if discrimination is deemed evident in the process, let the planning board suffer the consequences. I'm not sure if a court typically reverses a decision or if the court requires a new review under a process scrubbed of the offending bias.

Robert Honeyman

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 5:25 p.m.

I'll only comment on a couple of things: 1. Building. It used to be (and maybe still is) that enforcing standards outside of safety against religious institutions was difficult. I don't believe that non-accredited private schools are required to meet standards required of accredited public schools. If that's so, it doesn't make sense to criticize the institution for ignoring design guidelines. If it's an accredidation requirement, the accrediting agency will enforce their own guidelines. So, while it's certain that the existing school has sufficient exits and a working, code-enforced sprinker system, I don't know that anyone outside the planning board has any say over the number of windows. Seems like a red herring to me. 2. It is difficult to understand your charge that the institution violates the constitutional rights of others without being privy to the actual teaching plans used throughout the school. One treads on very shaky grounds when trying to paint the universe of any group with the views of the extremists in that group. Are you suggesting that all muslims are jihadists? That would seem to be a serious stretch of the imagination. However, if you have specific information to support your general claim, it would be helpful if you shared it. Else, you are playing into the hands of those whom you so clearly distrust. Document or say nothing.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 5:16 p.m.

Thanks for that kind response. Windows provide natural ventilation and allow natural light into the room. Such natural lighting conditions are not a distraction. Kindly look at any School building. How could a proposed School Building have any Constitutional Rights? I am not opposed to Islam. I am opposed to their Religious Rights that directly impact my Religious Rights. I have not asked the Islamic Academy to contact the Department of Justice. I am directly speaking about their concerns about Constitution and Constitutional Rights. You seem to suggest that the School has a Constitutional Right to compromise my Constitutional Rights as Constitution does not demand people to swear their allegiance to the Constitution.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 4:35 p.m.

Really Bhavana? Your objections are that the building does not have enough glass windows? Maybe they feel that this can be a distraction to education, and it is better to keep attention focused in the classroom rather than gazing outside. I don't necessarily agree with this either, but I have no right to say that they can't believe this. And if their fire exits were substandard this would indeed be an issue, but what leads you to personally suspect they may not be? I assume inspectors have checked this all out. You seem to have quite a bias against Islam. Christian schools impart plenty of ideas that are peculiar to Christianity. Teaching these particular ideas however, even though they may be just as contrary to the US Constitution as you believe Islamic ideas may be, THIS is a constitutional right. You can promote pretty any ideas you want that may differ from Constitutional principles, whether it be in a secular or religious setting. They are ideas. If someone wanted to promote ideas that the Constitution is wrong, doing so is a Constitutional right. Your idea that every religious school "must first declare its allegiance to the Constitution and must commit itself to promote Constitutional Rights" is simply an absurd violation of the Constitution in itself, and quite frankly a bit scary. Sounds a bit like McCarthyism to me. If objections to the school are coming from people with thoughts like your own, then maybe I was wrong, and the DOJ should indeed investigate the possibility of religious bias playing a role in this rezoning issue.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 3:41 p.m.

Aside from traffic, my main concern would be noise. I don't have a clue how much noise might emanate from this school or its eventual community center, but if it's anything like some Christian churches it can be extremely and obnoxiously loud. I lived next to a school that rented space to three different churches over the course of several years and for 4 solid hours every single Sunday my afternoons were blown away by the blasting of their over-amplified electrified instruments. I talked to the church officials who refused to turn down the volume and basically told me "if you want us to turn it down take it up with the school". I contacted the school district, I called the police - and guess what - nothing could be done about it because of religious entitlement. Never mind that their being inconsiderate was encroaching on my sanity. The summers were especially horrible as I could never enjoy being in my own backyard. So I would be concerned about what the future holds until I was assured otherwise. It needs to be in writing that their "music" will not go over so many decibels and that traffic will not create congestion and safety issues. It's one thing to move into a home with an existing church (or school or business) as your neighbor, it's quite another to have a church (or school or business) to have land rezoned for their needs without little concern for lives of those already established in the area. As I mentioned…I lived next to a school. The school was there when I bought the house and in all those years I never had an issue with the kids or the school. I never would have guessed a church could create such ill will.

Chris Blackstone

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 3:28 p.m.

Are rezoning requests like this typically approved? Have any of the recently built private/charter schools gone through a similar process? Details like that would be helpful in this article.

Chris Blackstone

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 3:25 p.m.

It's understandable that few people trekked to the other side of town (literally) to attend a meeting at the current school. Was the second meeting at a house located next to the current school or at a house located near to the proposed location? That isn't clear from the article.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 3:17 p.m.

The headline on this story is incorrect: CAIR is a political advocacy group, not a civil rights organization.

Matt Cooper

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 6:32 p.m.

As if any of that, even if it were true, invalidates the claims made by the school and it's leaders. Right.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 5:56 p.m.

...and one that a congressional subcommittee has found to be linked to financial support for groups deemed to be extremist.

Not from around here

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 2:54 p.m.

Will the school be re-embursing the DOJ and the state for any expenses that are incurred by this rediculous action? If not they sure should!

rusty shackelford

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 2:24 p.m.

Since when is a school not allowed under residential zoning?


Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 2:08 a.m.

I live one block from a school, plopped right in the middle of a residential neighborhood Matt. Thing is, the property the school is located on is not zoned residential. There's a difference between a residential neighborhood, and residential zoning. If I wanted to buy up all the properties of a city block in a residential neighborhood on the west side, tear down all the houses and put up a private school, I would not be able to do so because the property is still zoned residential. You can have all sorts of things mixed in to a residential neighborhood - offices, corner stores, light industrial, schools - regardless of the neighborhood they are within though, they have to still be zoned for that particular use. Residential zoning means residential, which a school is not.

Matt Cooper

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 6:31 p.m.

amlive: Ummm in case you haven't lived in Ann Arbor a long time, there are any number of schools that are squarely located in residential neighborhoods. I went to Abbott Elementary which is literally in the middle of a residential area. As is my junior high, Scarlett Middle School. Haisley, Pattengill, Northside. All in residential areas. And this list doesn't even include religious or charter schools. We could go on and on.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

Since when has it been allowed? Quite simply, a school is not residential. I'm pretty sure they've fallen under a different zoning code for as long as zoning codes have been in place.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 2:23 p.m.

Perhaps there's more too this than what is written in this article, but from this brief summary I don't see much to suggest any bias based on the religious orientation of the school. It's unfortunate that our society has driven Muslim's to a position where they have to be so weary of discrimination, and though I can't blame them for suspicion (we've kind of earned that), I just don't see it likely to be the case here. My guess is that the development would likely have been met with similar opposition if it were a Steiner, Montessori, or Catholic school being proposed.

Not from around here

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 2:57 p.m.

You may have a point with Montessori or Stiener schools but the reaction from the peanut gallery here you have been far worse if it was catholic. The is absolutly no evidence that the decision was based on the fact that the group is Muslim. However, thats not going to stop some from dragging race into to it to get there own way.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 2:41 p.m.

I just don't see evidence that this opposition has anything to do with "outsiders". I mean honestly, when was the last time you've seen any development of decent size that requires rezoning go through approval without opposition? It was originally zoned as residential, and this is what the property owners expected it to stay as when they bought homes there. Maybe there is something more to it that what's written here, and perhaps there is some evidence of religion centered bias. Honestly though, I don't think it would make much difference what the development was, whether it be office, commercial, religious, or a prep school for rich white kids. If it requires rezoning within a residential area that is already partially developed, there is going to be opposition from the residents. That's just how it works around here, as proven time and time again to any developer who wants to rezone anything.

rusty shackelford

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 2:25 p.m.

It's all counterfactual speculation, but I have to disagree with your second paragraph. Those schools you mentioned would not be perceived as 'outsiders' to the extent this one undoubtedly is.

David Cahill

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 2:17 p.m., I'm confused. Either the rezoning request has been rejected by the Planning Commission, or it is on the Commission's agenda for August 4. You can't have it both ways. Which is right?


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 2:07 p.m.

Xenophobia isn't cool.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 6 p.m.

xenophobia is indeed not cool....hence justified concern about a school that emphasizes / encourages separatism...particularly of a sort that in many cases has unarguably produced those antipathetic to the wider pluralistic society. also , just out of curiosity, if the proposed school follows other such with which i am familiar, would its world maps omit israel ( an actual country??)

Not from around here

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 2:55 p.m.

Neither is using false claims of racism to subvert laws for your groups own gains

Mike D.

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 1:43 p.m.

I simply can't believe that anyone would have a problem with putting a neighborhood school in a neighborhood if the word "Islamic" wasn't part of the discussion. And this is on Ellsworth, for crying out loud. It's already a huge street with tons of traffic! I also find it very hard to believe the township will be able to show a compelling reason not to allow the re-zoning, other than the expected NIMBY and racist types. I have a small private school on my street and they are great neighbors!


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

Great answer! BRAVO! I'm very surprised at many of the other comments, some or many of which have an implicit or explicit NIMBY aura. A very sad reflection on Ann Arbor where one would expect more progressive views of educational institutions.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 1:31 p.m.

Should have researched the zoning before you bought. Play the discrimination card only when it's really happening. You are not different. You are not special. The same rules apply to you that apply to anyone else wanting to build a school - and a community center- in an established residential neighborhood.

Matt Cooper

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 6:24 p.m.

Right, pb. And if it were a christian school (and a community center) you'd not say a word about it. Nor would any of the people living in that area, I'd bet.

Mike D.

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 1:45 p.m.

I think people don't understand zoning. Zoning can be--and routinely is--changed to suit appropriate uses. If a neighborhood school isn't an acceptable use of land zoned for a neighborhood, I don't know what is.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 1:31 p.m.

I think bringing in the Dept. Of Justice is the best idea for all, not an intimidation tactic. It's best to shut down those accusations of discrimination. The ACLU would also be a resource.  Just yesterday we saw a distressed Glazier Way neighborhood dealing with frustrations brought on when a religious institution changed how they were using their property. It is reasonable for these residents to try and fight rezoning regardless of who the petitioners are or their intent, and it is reasonable to bring in monitors to rule out discrimination.

Michigan Man

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 1:30 p.m.

I trust the Pittsfield Township leaders will stand tall to their convictions. Please do not cave to some minor, political pressure from a very small, out of the mainstream group. The vast majority of fine residents of the Ann Arbor area are behind you!

Matt Cooper

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 6:22 p.m.

Not from arounh here: "The reason for the rejected zoning request is cut adn dry and very reasonable" Right. The commision suggests a traffic study, even going so far as to suggest which agency should perform said study. Then that particular agency says "Hey, it won't pose any traffic issues at all" and yet the commission still says no way. Yep. Very reasonable I'd say. NOT!

Mike D.

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 3:49 p.m.

If you think that's pissed off, you might not want to be around when I actually am. And are you really going to say that I have to respect "diversity of opinion" when that opinion clearly is grounded in the desire for less diversity (your statement that the group is less credible because it's "out of the mainstream" belies this)? That's a facile argument if I've ever heard it.

Not from around here

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 3:01 p.m.

No one is questioning anyone right to practice there religion. What is in question is one group crying "racist" when they don't get there way. The reason for the rejected zoning request is cut adn dry and very reasonable. Time to suck it up and look for another spot rather than throw a temper tantrum

Michigan Man

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 1:57 p.m.

MikeD = You seem pissed off at my comment? BTW - I am not an illegal and I do live proudly in America! Deal with diversity of opinion without hating on others.

Mike D.

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 1:40 p.m.

Stephen, I don't know what country you think you're living in, but even groups that are "out of the mainstream" have the right to practice religion and educate their youth in America.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 12:10 p.m.

Let's get one thing straight: don't compare the school option as better than a shopping mall going in there. Neither fit or are zoned for this. Only single family houses were designed to fit here. That is what residents bought homes expecting. Road system not designed for it and once it is rezoned the use can change grow to something even worse for residents and traffic. All the people living on Golfside would never get to exit their driveways during peak periods with the added traffic this would bring.

Donald Wilson

Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 3:51 a.m.

There already IS a traffic light there! I got thru that intersection every day, and Golfside from Huron River Drive to Ellsworth is my favourite shortcut because it's fast and the biggest "backup" is always at washtenaw, where I have to sit thru one light cycle.

rusty shackelford

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 2:27 p.m.

This 'problem' could be easily solved by a traffic light. There are plenty that exist solely to allow neighborhood residents onto major roads.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 12:21 p.m.

oh, and i missed the mention of anybody living on golfside that was bothered by the idea of a new school


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 12:19 p.m.

that sounds like more of a fortis academy problem


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 12:08 p.m.

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray", The traffic study may show no impact but when it actually in place may be another story all together, Then what will everybody do then I wonder? I live in the apartments on Ellsworth Rd and I can say that the traffic from the parents from the Fortis Academy, have made traveling on Ellsworth and Golfside a nightmare. Also to Tarek Nahlawi , I was not aware of any other meetings other then the one at the open house, Perhaps maybe if there was more broadcasting of said meetings more people would have show up. And rest assure, my opposing the building of your school has nothing to do with you being different, or your religion, I would have problem if it was church, synagogue, another academy, senior center, Red Cross Center or as you say community center.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 11:54 a.m.

There are many, many undesirable land uses that I would work hard to fight against being next to my home. Polluting factories, landfills, loud nightclubs (could be somewhere, just not next to my house), liquor stores, highways, et al. A school-- and community center-- is highly *desirable* in my book. Some traffic two times a day during weekdays, sure, but that's very different from semi trucks going in and out all day and night... Schools generally keep their property very clean and presentable, are highly concerned with safety, often invite neighboring community in for public activities or other use of their facilities, and provide a walkable opportunity for kids that live near. Playgrounds and schoolyards bring a vibrancy to a neighborhood as kids run and play. That's the kind of neighbor I want-- someone who is watchful, brings positive activity, keeps bad activity out, and keeps up their property. I'd welcome a school... Head over to the City of Ypsi-- I for one would welcome you! (...though the battle here is about taking things off the tax rolls-- but that's a totally different issue)...

Jack Gladney

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 11:54 a.m.

Why is the word "madrasa" avoided in this article? I do believe that is the respectful word for such an academy.

rusty shackelford

Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 2:23 p.m.

"Madrasah" is the Arabic word for a school of any sort. However, I imagine they gave their school an English name since it is in the U.S., not an Arabic speaking country. Seems self-evident.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 1:48 p.m.

You may believe, but you are wrong. This is a school for children. Like Catholic schools, it will include religious studies. But calling this school a madrasa would be like calling a Catholic elementary school a seminary.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 11:52 a.m.

"The property was zoned as part of Silverleaf subdivision and homeowners have said they bought their homes expecting the adjacent property to stay residential. " If I had to choose between a school or the possibility of another shopping center or other commercial building (which is what is more likely to go in there than another residential subdivision), I would definitely pick the school. It seems like the school has taken all the proper steps to assure they would be an asset instead of a burden on the community and it does make me wonder why they are not being approved. And bringing up the size difference between their school and Fortis Academy should ease any concerns of local residents. And I don't really see how many people from Roundtree could be complaining since there are many students living there that attend Fortis Academy, which seems to be producing ridiculous amounts of disorganized traffic. It sounds like the traffic from the new school would be routed through the traffic light, making the impact of extra traffic minimal and easy to deal with. If the issue is really traffic then maybe the residents should approach Fortis Academy with their concerns.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 12:16 p.m.

oh, do you know of any new developers looking for land in this area???


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 12:06 p.m.

Are you serious? It isn't a matter of comparing this school to a shopping center as the alternative options. Rather it is single family houses that were the original plans for all that currently live here. Ain't no shopping center going in there.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 11:59 a.m.

Also, contacting the DOJ with this issue instead of staging obnoxious provoking protests really shows their level-headedness and character. Unfortunately, there often does seem to be racism involved with any issues involving the Arabic-Islamic community these days. There are so many people filled with unfounded hate around here.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 11:45 a.m.

I just love this civil rights action! Every time some group doesn't get what they want it becomes a civil rights violation. This time it is liberal/progressive/democrat vs Muslim. I thought only Republicans or Tea Party people could be racist?

Basic Bob

Wed, Aug 3, 2011 : 2:41 a.m.

The Pittsfield board may have run as Democrats but they don't back it up with their actions.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 12:06 p.m.

How do you know the political affiliation of those that object to the school?


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 10:45 a.m.

This was also a concern when Fortis Academy moved in 5 years ago. They too are on Golfside and Ellsworth. I don't blame the township folk at all for doing this. Way too much traffic in that area and there isn't a real outlet for the one school already there. I believe if the school was near a major intersection there would not be a problem. But from what I see? There is real concern for traffic headaches. Tough call.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 10:41 a.m.

DOJ monitors? Only on a farm? Please. This sounds like pure intimidation to me. If it isn't going your way, try to scare them into voting for it, right? I know for a fact that there is already an Islamic school in Pittsfield on Platt Rd near Textile and Mich Ave. It isn't on a farm either. As a resident, I didn't buy my house with any expectation that anything but other houses would go in there. Maybe existing residents concerns should matter sometimes, eh?


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 10:23 a.m.

If it is any comfort at all, there was vehement opposition to the new charter schools now being constructed in Ypsi Twp. Wow, people were upset! And guess what? Traffic and noise were the two biggest concerns... Not everything is about religion, race, etc. Stop playing the sympathy card.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 1:23 p.m.

SInce it is a "fact", please cite your sources.


Tue, Aug 2, 2011 : 12:27 p.m.

They're not necessarily being treated unfairly. However, religious organizations are afforded special privileges when it comes to land use regulation, for example under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. I don't know if RLUIPA applies here, but generally the onus is on the government to have a very solid case for zoning decisions when it comes to churches. Add in the undeniable fact that Islamic groups are routinely forced to jump through hoops that Christian groups aren't, and I think it's reasonable to ask for some sort of oversight. Small government bodies are notoriously bad at interpreting more obscure land use regulations.